Maximize the quality of fats eaten.
The topic of carbohydrates leads right in to a discussion of fat quality in the diet. The type of fat that you eat has a significant impact on metabolism of carbohydrates, as well as regulating all kinds of immune and inflammatory processes in the body.
Today’s typical American diet has significant problems in terms of amount and type of fats eaten. It tends to be very high in the worst kinds of fat, and very low in the healthful fats. It is high in omega 6 fats, saturated fat and trans fats, and low in omega 3 fats and unsaturated fats. This is a really big problem, because it is probably responsible for most heart disease and diabetes, and contributes to cancer. It is also very easy to change by eating foods that taste much better than the processed and fast junk food that most Americans eat.
For those of you who don’t understand these terms, some definitions: Omega 3 fatty acids are the main ones found in fish and wild game meats. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in grains, dairy fat, and grain fed meats. It is really, really important to have a diet that is rich in omega 3 fats and low in omega 6 fats. A whole bunch of things in metabolism work in an exquisitely well regulated fashion when our ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is high. Those same things get royally screwed up when the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats is low. These aspects of metabolism include a functioning immune system to fight off viruses and cancer, efficient receptors for hormones including insulin, the blood being just the right amount of stickiness so that it clots when injured but does not plug up your arteries, and a control of inflammation so that you do not have arthritis, colitis, sinusitis, asthma or brain degeneration like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease when you get older.
Eating a lot of grain loads up the body with omega 6 fatty acids, and this is bad. Eating a lot of wild game meats and fish loads up the body with omega 3 fatty acids and this is good. Some foods like beef vary in their content of omega 3 or omega 6 fats depending on what the cattle have been eating. Factory-farmed grain-fed beef will be high in omega 6 fatty acids and probably not be very healthy animals, especially given hormone and antibiotic treatments in the US. The cattle allowed to wander on the free range and eat grass will not only be healthier, but also have a higher content of omega 3 fats.
Traditional (Paleolithic) diet was very high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in omega 6 fatty acids. There were no factory-fed animals. Fish and meats were all organic and free-range. The Paleolithic people would eat whatever critters they hunted, and would eat not only the muscles, but also the brain, organ meats, and bone marrow. They would also eat lots of bugs. This gave them not only an optimal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, but would also give them a class of fats called phospholipids that protect the liver and brain and make the hormones work well and probably prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It also provided them with a diet very rich in minerals, including lots of calcium and chromium from the bone marrow.
These days, you can approach the traditional diet by keeping away from factory-farmed meats and poultry, avoiding processed foods containing hydrogenated fats like margarine, eating plenty of fish, wild game meats, free range meats as well as eating lots of produce. It is a good idea to get a large variety of foods in the diet, including various types of cold water fish like salmon but also elk, buffalo, lamb, venison, wild boar, and free range beef. You will notice that poultry and eggs are not on the list…virtually all poultry commercially available are grain-fed. If there is an opportunity to obtain poultry fed on vegetable scraps, wild greens and seaweeds, you will see the intense color of the yolks and the major difference in the flavor, but don’t depend on these foods for a high concentration of omega 3 fatty adds.
In addition to eating a variety of meats, most people really need to take supplements of fatty acids to get enough omega 3s to prevent disease and degeneration and create repair of injured tissue. The best omega 3 supplements are made from marine sources, like fish oil, algae oil, or krill oil. You can also get some omega 3s from flax oil, but this is not very high in the types of omega 3 oils that are the best.